A woodstove is a lovely -- and often practical -- appliance, but it does require some maintenance. If smoke emerges from the door when you open it, or your fire is hard to start, it's possible your stovepipe needs cleaning. Luckily, it's a simple procedure to clean the black buildup from inside the pipes by tackling them one at a time. Stovepipes are constructed in short sections -- usually no longer than about 18-24 inches -- they're designed to come off easily. Best of all, you won't need any special tools to get your stovepipe operating at peak efficiency -- just a little elbow grease.
1 Put on gloves, eye and breathing protection.
2 Remove two screws -- if there are screws -- from around the circular flange on top of the stove where the stovepipe emerges. This type of screw has a hex head. Remove two more screws where the stovepipe penetrates through the wall or ceiling flange, which is also a circular lip. Use a 1/4-inch nut driver to remove the screws.
3 Pull the section of pipes from the top of the stove, and away from the wall or ceiling in one big piece. Keep the whole thing together, along with any elbows that might be on the ends. Take everything outside or to an area where you can take it apart for cleaning.
4 Remove all of the screws securing the stovepipe sections and elbows together. There will be two screws for each section at the top and bottom. Use the nut driver to remove all of them. Pull the pipes apart. Remember to keep them in the order they came off so that you can easily reassemble them when you're finished cleaning.
5 Scrub the insides of the short, individual sections with a stiff wire brush. The buildup, also known as creosote, will be black, crystalline and very crispy. If the buildup is excessive, use a glue scraper or putty knife to scrape it off, and then follow it up with the wire brush. Scrape the inside of the pipe sections individually until they're free from black crystals or soot. You won't be able to get the pipe shiny. That's OK.
6 Reassemble the stove pipe. There are pilot holes in all the sections. Revolve the pipes until the pilot holes line up. Reinsert the 3/8-inch screws in the holes and use the nut driver to secure all the sections together. Finish by installing the complete section back onto the stove, wall or ceiling, and driving screws into the flanges if necessary.
Items you will need
- Eye protection
- Breathing protection
- 1/4-inch nut driver
- Wire brush
- Glue scraper (optional)
- Putty knife (optional)
- 3/8-inch screws
- The frequency of stovepipe buildup depends on what you burn in your stove and how often you burn it. If you burn clean, kiln dried lumber or scraps, your stovepipe may only need cleaning once a year. If you burn wet, green or unseasoned wood that smokes or smolders, your stovepipe may need to be cleaned every few weeks.
- Wear breathing, eye and hand protection. Creosote buildup creates sharp crystals that can cut skin. Stovepipes are also sharp along the ends.
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